| | | VIDEO: A Day with the Bamboo Bar

Author / John

[youtube width=”540″ height=”304″]https://youtu.be/NUGiZrOs5s4[/youtube]

John leads from the front when it comes to training bench press at the Power Athlete HQ gym.

Many in the functional fitness crowd have been known to shoot down the bench press as a “Functional Movement.” As John likes to say, anyone who argues that the bench press isn’t “functional” has clearly never been in bar fight, to a rock show, or played a contact sport.

As a 10 year NFL vet, John’s job was to bench press 300 lb defensive lineman 10 yard down field. Watch him put on a clinic with one of his favorite bench press training tools, the bamboo bar.

For the uninitiated, here’s what you need to know. The bamboo bar will amplify any inefficiency that you have in your bench press. It will crush you if you are not pushing “straight up” and expose points in the bar path where an athlete may allow force bleed. In doing so, it forces the athlete to find a way to stabilize.

The best way to do that is to “bend the bar” once things get dicey. It’s literally a bend or break scenario.

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John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.


  1. Steve (a.k.a. Prof. Booty) Platek on July 29, 2015 at 5:41 am

    @john and @luke wow.
    I wonder if you could comment on how you felt, or how the uninitiated felt the day after, or two days after; i.e. DOMS? What I found interesting was this is a true demonstrator of the weakest link. @luke when you went, your first few reps were spot on, straight $money$ but that didn’t last long. Unlike @john‘s reps which were flawless through every rep, yours began to degrade. This was much more evident in the other athletes, as well. Cool stuff.

    A few questions:
    1) head off the bench: Although my bench sucks because of shoulder issues, I was always taught head down, against the bench, almost driving into the bench and big arch. The head down thing never felt comfortable to me because of my thoracic kyphosis, but that’s what I was taught. Always felt like I could do more with my head raised a little. I see you all were lifting your head here: does that add to the stabilization?

    2) could the bamboo bar be used in other unstable positions: press (closer or wide grip), for example?

    Good stuff guys!

    • Luke Summers on July 29, 2015 at 8:00 am

      Doms wasn’t an issue, you tend to get reps at much less than you are truly capable of due to lack of stability. But while in the fight, you’re torched. you get the “sea legs” effect if you’ve ever spent a day on a boat, but they’re bamboo arms: it feels like your arms are shaking

      1) Head Pos: just like Denny said, its a JW preference. He (we) has earned creative license. We always have our untrained & novice Athletes maintian 5 points of contact (head down) to maximize transfer to sport, and attack limiting factors (spinal awareness). As those Athletes become more seasoned, personal preference could take precedence (Curse of the Gifted). If head position on bench is your biggest problem, we are in a really good spot.

      2) Bamboo Bar: We primarily use it for the horizontal press, but you could OHS and V Press too. Possibilities could be endless, just make sure you know WTF you’re doing, and follow the 3P model: Purposeful, Practical, Prudent

  2. Denny K on July 29, 2015 at 6:05 am

    Good shit guys!

    @splatek, there are some comments regarding the head position in the comments section of the YouTube video. It is something that John has always felt comfortable doing and Luke has just been giving it a try. I personally try to keep my neck neutral and on the bench (I just feel stronger in this position)but I know some people like to see that bar touch their chest/sternum area.

  3. Steve (a.k.a. Prof. Booty) Platek on July 29, 2015 at 10:20 am

    @denny & @luke roger that.

    Thanks guys. We/I don’t have one of these at the house (or at the gym)…might be something worth investigating.
    Thanks again.

  4. Ingo B on July 29, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    The biggest takeaway from this video? John likes Blackstreet. That’s all I could focus on.

  5. Dennis Dolan on July 31, 2015 at 10:56 am

    Where can I get a bamboo bar?
    This is an amazing tool to use with the athletes that just don’t get the vertical bar path and torque issues, no matter how much you teach them.

    Silly question, did PAHQ get a Volcom deal, not Hurley?

  6. Matt Lahana on August 3, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    Hey @john

    How come you train with a mouth guard?

  7. Luke Summers on August 3, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    @dennis Volcom got some solid product placement, didn’t they? We are right next door to their HQ.

    @mattlahana JW is a big believer, lots of research on the performance benefits of closing the kinetic chain of the jaw (clenching teeth) among other things. Sounds like a great topic for the forums.

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